Caritas Illumination

They were approaching their 25th anniversary and she wanted to get him something unique. Like a Ketubah, to be displayed in their bedroom, but not a Ketubah.

She had seen a scroll she liked and sent it to me for inspiration. She knew the words she wanted written. The first word, Caritas, was to be emphasized. She told me it was the focus of their marriage. Caritas, it means love of humankind, charity. The only other words were their names, wedding date and where they were married.

Now it was up to me. The inspirational scroll had been crafted at Ames and Rollinson. It was a lovely Victorian piece with gracefully swirling acanthus leaves, lombardic versals and missal calligraphy.

I don't think she had known that I had worked at Ames and Rollinson. It was my first 9 to 5 job after graduating from art school. And this piece took me back to that studio on Park Avenue South.

I spent several lunch breaks studying the design of old documents displaye don the wall. The details were astounding. While I was working there, I read Johnston's "Writing, llluminating and Lettering" for the first time. It informed how I saw the decorative motifs and how they moved around the border. After reading Johnston, I saw the structure of illuminated borders at a glance. Armed with this new super power, I studied the displays in earnest. 

That was,1981.

For this Caritas, I used gold leaf, hand ground azurite and malachite and painted Acanthus- a symbol of paradise. Although silver is the traditional metal for 25 years, here Caritas is surrounded by a bed of tooled, raised gilding, a medieval convention. GoId, incorruptible and never decaying, is more appropriate for recognizing enduring love and a husband who loves his wife. The paints I used were made from medieval recipes and techniques, a nod to his life-long interest in medieval studies. This celebrates a marriage focused on Caritas, love of humankind.

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